The Ministry of Health yesterday called for enforcement of a ban on all advertising for baby formula due to the health risks it can pose to infants and for enhanced monitoring of all advertising of food for children.
The call was made at a high-level meeting of officials from several ministries as well as representatives from a number of NGOs, including the World Health Organisation and Unicef.
Prak Sophorn Neary, deputy director of the National Centre for Maternal and Child Health, said the meeting was called to ensure a joint effort to enforce a 2005 sub-decree regulating the marketing of food products, particularly powdered milk, for children.
“We urge relevant ministries to continue monitoring and revising all advertisements of products to feed babies and children everywhere,” she said.
Advertising of baby formula should be banned because some promotions were undermining mothers’ confidence in breast-feeding, she said.
The call to enforce the ban follows research from the WHO that found that the lives were being saved each year in Cambodia as a result of an increase in the number of mothers feeding their infants with breast milk exclusively.
Campaigns to encourage exclusive breast-feeding for infants from birth to six months had raised the rate from 11 percent in 2005 to 74 percent in 2010, and this was saving the lives of 6,000 children a year, the study found. WHO health specialist Pieter van Maaren said that there was no doubt that children fed milk made from powder were more susceptible to illness and death than those fed by breast milk.
Joel Conkle, a nutrition specialist at Unicef Cambodia, said that “when compared with a child only receiving breast milk, a child fed with formula is six times more likely to die in the first two months of life.
“While formula feeding is especially dangerous in an environment with poor sanitation and hygiene, formula feeding is dangerous even in a developed country as it can lead to chronic health problems, which are a burden on the health system in the long-term,” he said.